Words of Wisdom

Last week, I was invited to participate in a “Welcome To The Media Arts Department” panel at my alma mater, C.W. Post, geared toward offering some words of advice to both incoming freshmen new to the major and those seniors embarking on their final year of college before heading out into the workforce.

Never being much of a public speaker, my initial reaction was one of slight trepidation. But, upon further consideration, I thought I might actually have something to offer on this particular topic. How did my college education prepare me for my current position here at South Bay’s Neighbor Newspapers, both as an editor and a columnist? Did I take advantage of all of the opportunities offered by C.W. Post and its faculty? What was the job search like? All questions I hadn’t really stopped to consider since settling down at this job more than five years ago... because, let’s face it – who does?

I suppose the greatest advantage of my education at Post – and perhaps at any university nowadays – is that you are prepared to enter your chosen field (in my case, Journalism) with a diverse set of skills, rather than one specific specialty. Gone are the days of focusing exclusively on writing or editing or reporting. Now, you must be a master of all trades, as well as have a functional background in radio, television, graphic design, photography, web navigation, social networking… the list goes on and on. Fortunately, I was provided with enough of an introduction into each of these fields; perhaps not enough to excel in all of them equally, but certainly enough to provide a solid foundation to build upon.

As I stressed to the students in attendance at this panel, learning a little of everything may seem like a waste of time as you sit in your college lecture halls and think, “I know exactly what I want to do in my career – and this isn’t it.” However, as we should all be intuitive enough to know by now, the job market is a constantly changing force, one you must be willing to accommodate if you want to survive. Taking a less-than-ideal position to begin with can serve as a necessary stepping stone, a learning process, and can truly help you to build those bullet-points on your resume.  

The expression, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” is true to an extent, as connections surely breed opportunities; but don’t be fooled into thinking that genuine skills and on-the-job experience are irrelevant. You may know the top CEO at a company, but if you don’t have the skills to serve his/her business well, he/she may not want to have anything to do with you professionally.

I may not be the wisest alumna, having only been out of school myself for six years; but sometimes, not being so far removed from the experience provides even sharper perspective for those who are still finding their way. I remember being there, I remember putting together resumes and cover letters and going out on interviews, and I remember starting at the bottom and working my way up. That’s not to say that the journey is over; but I can at least report back on “Phase 1: Mission Accomplished.”


{Published: October 6th, 2010}

Jamie Lynn RyanComment